President urges people to shun extremes for achieving peace

February 8th, 2009 - 5:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha PatilMumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil Sunday urged people to adopt the “middle path” of tolerance prescribed by Lord Gautam Buddha and shun extremes in any sphere of life.
Dedicating the 325-feet tall Global Vipassana Pagoda here as a World Monument of Peace and Harmony, Patil said excess of anything can be harmful.

“One should adopt a moderate and balanced approach whether in our consumption habits or expressing our views.”

Recalling the Buddha’s teaching that all human beings are one, Patil said people create distinctions in their own mind and believe them to be true.

“Today, these perceived differences are dividing people. A whole ideology of hatred, executed with instruments of violence and terrorism, is being spread, destroying many families. Violence and terror will have to be defeated to bring peace in the world,” she said.

Towards achieving this end, Patil said the Global Vipassana Pagoda will provide the necessary space to calm and soothe the agitated mind in a world full of strife, stress and strain.

Earlier, the president inaugurated the 325-feet tall pagoda, described as the world’s largest, in the presence of an august gathering from India and around the world.

Among those present were: Maharashtra Governor S.C. Jamir, Union Ministers Sharad Pawar, Praful Patel, state Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra, several ministers, foreign dignitaries, members of diplomatics corps in Mumbai, representatives of all religions, Global Vipassana Foundation (GVF) founder S.N. Goenka and GVF chairman Subhash Chandra.

Spread over a lush green 13-acre donated land near the Arabian Sea, the pagoda will act as a soothing balm for the people of Mumbai. The city was recently ravaged by the Nov 26, 2008 terror attacks. The padoga is situated at Gorai, a picturesque fishing village to the north-west tip of Mumbai.

At the centre of the building rises the world’s tallest 90-foot pillar-less dome. It measures 280 feet in diameter and is flanked by two 60-ft tall pagodas, GVF chairman Subhash Chandra said in his welcome remarks.

Pagodas are multi-tiered structures common in China, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and other countries where Buddhism is followed.

Vipassana is an ancient Indian meditation technique. “It is a non-sectarian, rational process of mental purification through self-observation, practised in 140 countries,” GVF Trustee Vallabh Bhanshali said.

The original bone relics of Gautam Buddha, donated by the Sri Lankan government and the Mahabodhi Society of India, have been enshrined in the central locking stone of the dome, he added.

Designed by Indian architect Chandubhai Sompura on the lines of the She Dagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, this pagoda is a hollow structure, having a dome of 280-ft diameter. Below it is a massive 6,000-sq pillar-less meditation hall which can accommodate 8,000 people at a time, he said.

It is more than three times the size of the large masonry structure - the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka, which is 90 ft in diameter.

The pagoda is the outcome of efforts by nearly 700 labourers toiling daily for the past 11 years to make what is billed as the eighth wonder of the world.

Combining ancient building principles with modern techniques of construction, architect Sompura finally guided a structure using the ‘interlocking principle of construction’ for the huge stones - each weighing around 600-700 kg. The entire structure has consumed over 2.5 million tonnes of Jodhpur stone, which were cut in quarries around Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and transported to Mumbai.

The pagoda has been constructed mainly with donations received from former students of Vipassana and devotees around the world. The people of Myanmar donated the marble used for the flooring and the umbrella placed atop the pagoda. The people of Thailand donated the golden paint typically used in pagodas, which is not available in India.

Monday onwards, the pagoda will be thrown open to the people and tourists. Over 100,000 followers of Buddha are expected to visit it each year.

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